September 15, 2018: The Sacred Heart family in action
Today we joined members of the Sacred Heart Academy, the Rosary here in New Orleans to work with SBP on a build in the Lower Ninth Ward. SBP, formerly the Saint Bernard Project, our own home-grown recovery agency, now serves as the National agency that mobilizes to help communities recover from natural disaters. It began as a response by two volunteers who came to new Orleans to help in the recovery. Their initial volunteer efforts led them to work together and establish a tool lending library that would eventually end up as the model for recovery assistance, “shrinking the time” between disater and recovery.
1. The logo created in three languages (English, French and Spanish) and translated into many, many more languages unites Sacred heart communities around the globe on this day to honor the expansion of Sacred Heart education by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, RSCJ to the ends of the Earth. Duchesne House is named after Philippine.
2. Sr. Lynne Lieux, RSCJ shows off the shirts the Academy of the Sacred Heart designed as part of their homecoming after being evacuated during Hurricane Katrina (August 29, 2005). Thirteen years later, the shirt still brings up memories of that tragedy as well as memories of the resiliency of communities and individuals coming together to lend a hand.
3. Some of the students from the Rosary (the Academy of the Sacred Heart on St. Charles Avenue) arrive ready to make a difference with Sr. Lieux, RSCJ and Miss Crow, their teacher.
4. The bio that SBP puts out letting volunteers know this isn’t just a “project” but someone’s home. Ms. Rosemary, aged 72 lost her home in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the breach of the levee system and subsequent flooding of the city. We’re honored to have contributed for a few hours in helping get Ms. Rosemary back into her home.
5. SBP staff and Project Lead, Bri (from Florida) is as amazing as the rest of the SBP cohort who work through the Americorp program for an 11 month stint, learning and teaching important construction and community planning and advocacy skills.
6. Another amazing SBP PL, Unique (from Boston) shows us the next few steps.
Remember that fabulous welcome dinner your first night at Duchesne House? All of our welcome dinners are put together by members of the New Orleans extended Sacred Heart family including Associates and Children of Mary. Whether the time additional red beans and rice, Jambalaya, Gumbo or pasta, our students always have a delicious meal their first night with us. Tonight we welcomed them to Duchesne House along with various neighbors and community partners for a social, expressing our heartfelt gratitude for their service and generosity to our volunteers.
Thank you to everyone for their amazing support. We’re done for the summer and look forward to picking back up in September. In the meantime, here’s our newest visitor to the neighborhood:
“Henrietta” has been hanging out around our house. More than likely she was separated from her friends and seems about unsure of her surroundings. We have several flocks of free ranging “neighborhood” chickens. I will try and figure out how to catch her and get her back to one of the flocks a few blocks away. Stay tuned!
Their week included a trip to Ship Island, learning about the important role barrier islands play in the Gulf region.
The group even had a chance to be in the local news as they met with the meteorological team of our local news station, WGNO. A highlight for the group was realizing they shared a common value system in being Sacred Heart students. Three of the participants were local, from the Rosary (Academy of the Sacred Heart). Here’s what they had to say:
Thank you to Ms. Amy and Ms. Crow for their leadership and commitment to Sacred Heart education!
We gathered this morning for our closing prayer which included a ritual I myself participated in as a chaperone with our own students from Stuart Hall High School in San Francisco. “My NOLA in 6 words” (shout out to my former SHHS colleague and fellow Sacred Heart Associate, Ray O’Connor) is an opportunity for the students to synthesize their experience into 6 words. Here’s what they wrote:It was sad to say good-bye, and yet the reason we gathered these students from our Sacred Heart schools was to send them back to their own school communities to discover their own “Katrina” moments and continue the work of transformation. It was rewarding for us as Sacred Heart educators to see the growth in such a short period of time. We look forward to welcoming them back to Duchesne House with their respective school groups for future service opportunities. New Orleans is an amazing city, “neutral ground” where we welcome groups to learn about her rich history through thoughtful reflection and heartfelt action. In partnership with our our guests, we renew our commitment to the mission of the Society of the Sacred Heart: “to Discover and Reveal the love of God” through the work of education. Safe travels and come back soon!Sergio Vasquez and Sr. Bonnie Kearney, Duchesne House
Our last full day. The group was obviously feeling the effects of the week away from home and yet feel a sense of sadness at tomorrow’s departure. In a short period of time, they have formed a close-knit family of students who recognize their connections as members of the Sacred Heart family. Our task after our morning prayer reflection was to continue collaborating on a group project to share with their school communities back home. After lunch the group helped set up for the Welcome Home party for Ms. Nannie who lost her home after last year’s tornado. The Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Ursuline Sisters collaborated to help rebuild Ms. Nannie’s home. It was a moving experience to see the SBP team (St. Bernard Project) beaming with pride at the completion of yet another house returned to a home. The impact of single individuals working together is powerful. We have seen this in the work that our own Sacred Heart students have accomplished in this short week. Here are some final thoughts:
Only being in the Sacred Heart community for a year, I haven’t met anyone from any other Sacred Heart school outside of my community until I went on this trip. During this trip, while learning about race, poverty, and culture, I also learned more about other Sacred Heart schools either by listening to the students that go there or touring Sacred Heart schools in the New Orleans area. Lastly, it is advantageous to listen to other people who have other opinions and viewpoints that might help inform your own.
-Brandon (Convent & Stuart Hall, San Francisco)
My experience on this trip has been absolutely incredible, and I am so happy I chose this as my first service trip with the Network. Sergio and sister Bonnie are extremely loving people, graciously accepting all of us Sacred Heart students into their home for a week. Before this trip, I had only met a few people outside of my Sacred Heart school, and these seven girls (plus Brandon!!!!!!!!) have been so fun to get to know. We have truly bonded, not only through our times telling jokes and having fun, but through the challenging and heart wrenching information we have learned over the week. Even though there is still so much to learn, we have toured so much of New Orleans in such little time, and the information we have learned is something that a textbook could never teach. I am so happy with everything Sergio and Sister Bonnie have showed us, and I will miss New Orleans and my new Sacred Heart friends so much!
-Hannah (Duchesne, Omaha)
This trip is unlike any other school-organized experience I have ever had. Never had I thought that I would be making amazing friendships with girls from all across the country in a time span as short as one week. Not only have we been brought together through story-telling of our seemingly far-away lands of Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Florida, and Philadelphia, we have also bonded through our learning of the devastating history of our nation. Information was brought to light that we were unaware of, even with our studies of United States history. This poses the questions: what else in our nation’s history is being hidden from us? Has our identity as the United States of America been formed on an unfinished foundation? We were asked if the impact of this trip was mainly in our heads, hearts, or hands. I think that it is impossible to not have felt the power of our experience here in New Orleans in all of these places. We have absorbed so many new facts that we had never known before, allowing us to fill in the incomplete puzzle of the past. These facts paired with our conversations with residents of Louisiana, such as the women at the Community Book Center, the children at Thensted Center, and Chief David, our hearts were able to flourish in empathy. And with this newly gained knowledge and empathy, our hands have been inspired to work for change. Not only do I think that this project is important to learn about and to experience, I think that it is absolutely essential.
– Morgan (Greenwich, CT)
Photos: the group working on their projectThe welcome home party for Ms. Nannie @sbpusa Our prayer for Ms. Nannie:Our behind the scenes tour of the Cathedral: exploring it from top to bottom!We say good-bye tomorrow and begin the journey back home, inspired to make a difference in our respective school communities.
At the beginning of the day, we went to the Museum of Free People of Color which was probably my favorite museum experience of the whole trip. Our tour guide, Kim was very articulate and intellectual, and she told us about what life was like for free African Americans during the colonizations of the French, the Spanish, and the new found nation of the United State. For me, this was a huge experience on race, discovering the struggle and perseverance of the black people in New Orleans, who despite segregation were able to thrive and build themselves a life through their own understanding as people from New Orleans. Also, we were shocked to find out that New Orleans holds the biggest prison in the U.S., the Angola Prison, where inmates pick cotton in chain gangs today. To uncover the truth that jobs similar to enslavement are still forced upon African Americans exposes the cruel reality of racism’s constant presence in the South. The idea of racism was further explored at Studio Be in B Mike’s art exhibit, which displayed both the struggle of discrimination and poverty that black folks face today, especially in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. B Mike had a whole section that was focused on Katrina, which showed how devastating flooding was for many of the poorer people in New Orleans when their homes were completely destroyed and they had lost most of their life, current and past. Finally, we met Chief David who displayed that even amongst hard times, culture, something very emphasized in New Orleans, can remain so prominent despite tragedy. After both Katrina and his father’s death, Chief David continued to make his “suits” and use Mardi Gras as a way to lead and gather his community to celebrate their ancestors. You could sense the pride he had in every costume, showing that people here value traditions more than anything, as he said, “You don’t have to be rich with money, but you can be rich with culture”. -Isabella Jordan My favorite part of the day was our trip to the Museum of Free People of Color. It was one of a many experiences that shared a completely different side of history that I had never heard before. The perspective of enslaved and free Africans in New Orleans during the 1800s was eye opening, and the fact that none of it was in the history books our school uses was upsetting. Another impactful activity was a visit to Studio Be to explore the culture aspect of our trip. The art was beautiful and and impactful. Finally, we ended with a visit to African American Indian Chief David. I loved hearing him talk about his culture and singing the songs with him.-Sofia HoutsWe closed the day with dinner at the world famous Parkway Bakery for poor boys and continued to work on our projects.
Our third day of our Summer Network Service project began with a trip to the French Quarter. We set out after morning prayer for breakfast at the world famous, Cafe du Monde and stopped along Esplanade Avenue and the newly completed Moon River Walk to see the newly erected markers explaining the role that New Orleans played in the transatlantic slave trade.
After breakfast we walked to the Presbytere Museum to learn about the devastation brought about by Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the city’s levee system.
After lunch back at Duchesne House, we spent some time with our neighbors at the Community Book Center, encouraging the students to explore the Center’s collection of Afro-Centric books, encouraging them to consider the question of their own schools’ collections.After some time at the Community Book Center, we gathered for a conversation and made a first pass at identifying some ideas that may lead to the formulation of a question we will then pose as part of our project addressing Poverty, Race and Culture.After dinner (Taco Tuesday!) we watched the PBS documentary, “Another Form of Slavery” where once again, we realized there is much to American history that our text books have left out. To use Brandon’s go-to phrase, “Did you know. . . ” we learned from the documentary about “convict leasing” and “peonage” as well as the racial profiling and criminalization of African Americans. From just after Emancipation until well into the 1940s, African Americans were trapped and jailed under false pretenses, creating “another form of slavery”– one that so far most of American History textbooks seem not to have found as significant. The documentary (available for you to watch HERE), like the Whitney Plantation point to some serious gaps in our American educational system pertaining to race. Our work continues.